Conference encourages girls to pursue careers in science and technology

Girls did hands-on activities using Kool-Aid, food and empty Coke bottles.
Girls did hands-on activities using Kool-Aid, food and empty Coke bottles.(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 17, 2018 at 6:10 PM EDT
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Middle school girls from across Virginia gathered at James Madison University on Saturday to learn about science.

It was part of Expanding Your Horizons, a conference aimed at empowering girls to see themselves in the STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) field.

Bella, one of the girls who participated in the conference, said it was a great reminder of what makes science great — failing.

"When you do fail, you know that you learned something," Bella said. "There's always an opportunity to keep going. There's never like, 'oh, you failed? You can't go anymore.'"

JMU students helped run the labs, instructing younger students in hands-on activities.

"It's really cool to be talking about a high level of math and physics and have a girl understand it and be able to communicate," Analiesa Derieux, a JMU student, said. "It's like, 'oh my gosh! Yes, it's making sense!'"

Carlee Smith, a cohort president of the Engineering Ambassadors Network at JMU, said the day was rewarding.

"These girls are excited about STEM and excited about engineering and the things that go along with it," Smith said.

For both Derieux and Smith, the conference had an extra element making it special: an interest in science coming full circle.

"It's kind of surreal in a way [...] when I was younger, I went to activities like this," Derieux said. "To see girls in that same position I was years ago, it's like, wow."